Developing the Social Child
Why is it important?
A child’s ability to get along with other children and their peers plays a part in how well they adapt, and their general well-being as they grow into adulthood. It is thus important for children to learn to interact with others around them and learn how to communicate and express themselves.
A parent’s role in developing the social child
It starts at home. Everyday experiences with parents are fundamental to developing a child’s social skill-set. A child’s very first relationship is usually formed with his parents, as well as his first opportunity to communicate and interact.
Children who have a better understanding of how others feel are much more likely to forge connections with their peers and form positive bonds.
We can teach empathy by talking about different situations and scenarios with our children. Asking your child to think about how actions create an impact and how it other people might feel as a result of them will encourage your child to consider things from someone else’s perspective.
Teach your child to learn how to actively listen, to focus on what other people are saying and then think about what has been said once the conversation is over.
Share the news with your child, and pick out articles on other people’s lives around the world. For example, the recent brutal snowstorms ravaging the United States is a good way to introduce your child to the suffering of others on the other side of the world. It also gives you a chance to open your child’s eyes to issues others face around the world.
Diversify social and recreational activities
Guide your child to pursue and develop a range of social and recreational activities. This provides an opportunity to try something new, and encourages him to socialise in different settings.
Try signing your child up for sports lessons – group tennis or bowling are good options. If your child has more of a creative side, then group music or art activities might interest him more.
Alternatively, consider science or mathematics camps where there is usually an element of team work or team play. The more exposure your child has with interacting with people from other walks of life and a range of age groups, the more comfortable and confident he will be in social settings in future.
Other options include play dates with friends, or perhaps a family nature walk. A short trip to the grocery store or to a nearby neighbourhood playground are also good to help encourage social bonding and conversation.
Know your child’s limits
Just like how some of us prefer our own company while others relish being in a crowd of people, our children are no different. A child who is shy and introverted would not likely seek the same joy in being with people the way a child who is naturally outgoing would.
Some children prefer quiet and intimate settings while other children find it easier to relate to peers in large groups. Aside from this, we should try to observe our children’s time limits. Younger children, or those with special needs may feel more comfortable socialising for shorter periods of time.
Today’s changing world
The world today is more connected yet at the same time more isolated. The internet has given us so many opportunities to make friends and social media has also made it so much easier to reconnect with people and to keep up with our social connections.
Yet, it has confined us behind our screens more than ever. We have to adapt to keep up, and to ensure that we encourage our children to develop socially despite the changing world.
Family screen time
Screen time shouldn’t be alone time. Think ‘co’ when it comes to your child’s usage of devices: co-view, co-play and co-engage with your children when using devices. This promotes bonding and interaction and helps them be more aware of the social interaction happening off screen and around them in the real world.
Playing video games with your children is a good way to encourage family screen time. Seize the chance to demonstrate to your child what sportsmanship is, or proper gaming etiquette.
Teach children how to interact with others virtually. Emphasise that even when interacting with people virtually, we need to practise being courteous. A lot of children have trouble distinguishing between online and offline realities.